Management of the Irreparable Rotator Cuff Tear

J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2019 Dec 15;27(24):909-917. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-18-00199.


When evaluating patients with irreparable rotator cuff tears, orthopaedic surgeons have an increasingly wide array of surgical options, including both established techniques and emerging technologies. However, significant variability exists in the clinical evaluation and surgical indications in this subset, and definitions for pseudoparalysis and tear irreparability are inconsistent. In older patients with symptomatic rotator cuff arthropathy and relatively sedentary demands, the reverse total shoulder arthroplasty has been established as the preferred treatment option, producing reliable improvements in both pain and function. In younger patients without glenohumeral arthritis or pseudoparalysis, joint-preserving options are preferred, with recent literature highlighting alternative options including partial repair, bridging or interpositional graft placement, tendon transfers (ie, latissimus, trapezius, and pectoralis major), superior capsular reconstruction, and subacromial spacer placement. In this review article, we address the topic of irreparable rotator cuff tears, emphasizing the workup, indications for various treatment options, and clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries / surgery*